During World War II, Churchill warned: “There are vast numbers…in every land, who will render faithful service in this war, but whose names will never be known.” Much has changed since WW II, but our fears have not. Needing to protect our families, becoming sick, losing one’s life,– these are our Covid-19 concerns during this protracted war with a pandemic whose end is still too far away.
I work in a hospital that has seen its share of Covid patients, most eventually discharged, but some who have died. Not all the victims were elderly or had co-existing diseases. Recently, we lost a 22 year old, previously healthy young man whose ignorance of needing to avoid parties sadly cost him his life. The toll is not just on those who are sick. It’s also on those who provide their care, on their families, on the hospitals who face serious financial hardships (some will end up closing), as well as the millions who have lost jobs as well businesses.
I go to work because that is my professional responsibility. I wear scrubs, double mask, double glove, put on protective gowns and a face shield when doing procedures, wash my hands innumerable times, avoid eating with my colleagues, change my clothes in the garage before coming into the house, and wash up again. Despite these precautions, I worry about bringing the virus home to my wife, and she worries as well. We don’t see our friends, restricting contact to phone and Zoom conversations, and despite itching to get out and go somewhere, we don’t travel. The nurses and other hospital workers live similar restricted lives. I don’t consider myself a hero, as I don’t feel that doing the job you have chosen and love to be a heroic act. These days, it comes with a price higher than some expected to pay, yet we are there, doing our best. However, I admit to feeling anger and frustration when I have patients ask, “Do you think all this real? Don’t you think this is all part of a conspiracy to damage our president and our country?”
Admittedly, I can see how the public has been confused by apparent mixed messages coming from both health care and government sources. I can only tell them that I personally haven’t verified the numbers of sick and dead from Covid, by I have first-hand knowledge of how many patients we have in our hospital system, how any have died, and how many have come close to dying. I know that washing your hands frequently, wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing, and avoiding unnecessary human contact helps to keep the disease from spreading. I know that I will get my annual flu shot, because it helps to save lives from a disease that last year resulted in 60,000 deaths. And when the Covid-19 vaccine becomes available, I will take it, as will other members of my family.
You have the right to believe whatever you want. Unfortunately, even if you don’t believe in the infectious theory of disease or in Covid-19 being a real threat to you and those you love, the virus doesn’t care. It will kill you just the same!